On Friday, the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves and University of Manitoba Bisons played a defensive back-and-forth game that came down to the Bisons pulling out a 66-63 victory. On Saturday, January 12th, it was nearly an identical game script, with the Bisons holding on for a 69-65 win at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre in Prince George, B.C.
Baskets were tough to come by throughout the first half, as the two teams made it difficult on each other. When twenty minutes were up, the visitors held a narrow 29-25 lead. Manitoba’s quicksilver guard Rashawn Browne led all scorers with 10, while Vova Pluzhnikov scored 9 points for UNBC.
“They threw some different looks at us, switching up some zone coverages and man coverages,” said Hokanson postgame. “If we can be faster in recognizing what teams are playing, that will help us.”
The Bisons managed to stretch their lead in the third quarter, with the inside presence of James Wagner leading the way. The score heading in to the final frame read 46-38 for the Bisons.
Manitoba held a narrow lead much of the fourth quarter, but things got interesting with less than three minutes to play. With the deficit at 10 points, the TWolves began to chip away. A James Agyeman three-pointer made it a seven point game, which shrunk to five thanks to a pair of free-throws from Anthony Hokanson.
A Jovan Leamy three-pointer drew the the game to within just two points with just 1:07 to go. With 30 seconds left, the TWolves missed a contested layup, and the Bisons’ James Wagner was able to seal it with a pair of free-throws in the dying seconds.
“We have been struggling on offense, so we have some things to figure out,” said Hokanson. “We can hang our hats on the fact that we had a good defensive weekend, but we really need to get our offense going forward.”
Wagner carried the load for Manitoba for a second consecutive game, scoring 16 points and adding 10 rebounds. Browne chipped in with 14 points and six assists.
“We played really well as a team this weekend,” said Browne. “We had some injuries and some young guys stepped up. It didn’t hinder us. Next man up mentality.”
The Timberwolves were led by Vova Pluzhnikov, who had 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists. Hokanson had 14 points off the bench, while Leamy had 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and four steals.
“They’re a great team. They’re really scrappy,” said Browne postgame. “Leamy is a great scorer, Agyeman gets into the paint and creates for others, and Pluzhnikov is a great player as well. They have lots of guys.”
The defeat drops the Timberwolves to 7-7 on the season, while the Bisons rise to 5-9. The Timberwolves visit the University of Alberta next weekend for another exciting pair of games in Canada West, while Manitoba hosts Trinity Western.
“We still have a lot to prove,” said Browne. “We are just going to go back to practice on Monday and try to get better again.”
“We will need to play forty minutes with high energy, all the way through the game,” said Hokanson. “We can’t have those two minute periods where we let up, because that can be the difference between winning and losing.”